Reducing risk of plague

Public health officials recommend the following precautions to reduce the likelihood of you and your pets being exposed to plague:

Avoid fleas: Protect pets with flea powder, and keep pets on a leash and out of wild rodent habitats.

 

Stay out of areas that wild rodents inhabit. If you enter areas with wild rodents, wear insect repellent and tuck your pants cuffs into your socks to prevent flea bites.

Avoid all contact with wild rodents, including squirrels; do not feed or handle them.

Never touch sick or dead animals with your bare hands. Use a long-handled shovel to place dead animals in a garbage bag, and then place the bag in an outdoor garbage can.

Prevent rodent infestations around your house. Clear plants and materials away from outside walls, reduce access to food items, and set traps.

Treat known rodent sites around your home with flea powder or a suitable insecticide.

For more information about plague, visit the Boulder County Public Health website at BoulderCountyHealth.org, or call the Health Alert Hotline at 303-441-1460.

Source: Boulder County Public Health


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Boulder County health officials announced Friday that a pet cat and a dead squirrel have tested positive for the plague, and humane society veterinarians advise that domestic cats shouldn't be allowed to roam freely.

The cat -- living in the 2500 block of Sixth Street -- tested positive for the bubonic plague after its owner took it into the Humane Society of Boulder Valley to be checked out by veterinarians. A dead squirrel was also found at the intersection of Eighth and Maxwell, and also tested positive for the plague.

Jennifer Bolser, chief clinic veterinarian, said that the cat brought the dead squirrel home and likely became infected from it.

In response, signs have been posted in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood listing precautionary measures to avoid plague.

The cat, which was brought into the humane society last week, was treated with antibiotics and did not need to be euthanized, said Kim Sporrer, spokeswoman of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley.

This is the first time plague activity has been confirmed in Boulder County this season, county health officials said. It's been six or seven years since Boulder's humane society clinic has come across a plague case, Bolser said.

Plague occurs naturally in Colorado and is an infectious disease spread by fleas to wild rodents and other small mammals, such as squirrels, rats, prairie dogs and rabbits.

"The plague, in general, is highly treatable if you can catch it and diagnose it early, and don't ignore the symptoms," Bolser said.

Symptoms of plague infection include high fever, extreme fatigue and painful swollen lymph nodes.

Household pets, such as dogs and especially cats, can either get plague or carry infected fleas home to their owners. In rare instances, plague can be transmitted to people from cats sick with plague. Dogs, though, tend to be more resistant to the plague, Bolser said.

Plague can spread to humans when infected fleas from squirrels, prairie dogs, and other wild rodents bite a human.

"Keeping cats indoors is the best way to protect them from getting plague," said Joe Malinowski, Boulder County Public Health Environmental Health Division Manager. "In addition, pet owners should discuss with their veterinarians the best way to protect pets from fleas."

The plague-infected cat was brought into the humane society last week, and was placed in an isolation ward while receiving treatments. The cat is back at home now, Bolser said.

The cat's owner declined to comment.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.